Watching: ‘Student Athlete’.

Before I left for London, I was asking everyone I knew for advice on surviving the long plane rides. One person told me that the TV in the back of the seat in front of me would be loaded up with lots of shows and movies.

She was right, although it definitely wasn’t a selection I would pick for myself. I made it work, of course and between the two 8-9 hour flights, I watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (my favorite movie ever), “Pitch Perfect 2”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a Queen documentary, a few episodes of “Will & Grace”, and a movie I can’t remember the name of — don’t worry, it was a super weird rom-com.

I also stumbled across the HBO documentary, “Student Athlete”. I’m a sucker for a documentary, and growing up with my dad as THE sports journalist in town, I am always down to hear stories about athletes, sports programs, and coaches. Here is the extended description of the documentary from

The HBO Sports documentary Student Athlete is an examination of the complex rules of amateur athletics in America and how they affect uncompensated athletes and their families. From LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment and Steve Stoute’s United Masters, the feature-length presentation is directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (HBO’s Oscar winners Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness) and Trish Dalton (Bordering on Treason). 

Unpaid college athletes generate billions of dollars for their institutions every year. Student Athlete unveils the exploitative world of high-revenue college sports through the stories of four young men at different stages of their athletic careers, as well as a coach-turned-advocate and a whistle-blowing shoe rep who exposes the money trail. The documentary spotlights: former college and NFL coach John Shoop; New Jersey high school basketball phenom Nick Richards, now at the University of Kentucky; Mike Shaw, who played at the University of Illinois and Bradley University; Shamar Graves, a former wide receiver at Rutgers University; and Silas Nacita, a walk-on who played at Baylor University.

Student Athlete is an HBO Sports presentation in association with LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Jamal Henderson at SpringHill Entertainment, and Steve Stoute at United Masters; directors, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Trish Dalton; executive producer, Rick Bernstein; supervising producer, Joe Perskie.

Feel free to watch the trailer here.

This first struck me because I went to LSU — a school known for their football program. Student athletes work their asses off, play in one of the biggest stadiums in the country, and don’t see a dime.

I won’t get too political here, but it should be noted that most student athletes are black and they come from low-income homes. There’s a reason rules were made so that these students nor their families can benefit monetarily from their talent.

All of the five stories the documentary covers are interesting, but the one that sticks with me is that of Shamar Graves, former tight end for Rutgers University. Because he didn’t make it into the NFL (very few players do), he works multiple jobs, up to 18 hours per day, and sleeps in his car.

It shows him starting work before the sun rises, stocking shelves at Old Navy, then teaching Middle School, then coaching youth football, then working at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and then as a security guard at a nightclub. Graves later reveals he is only taking home about $1,500 per month.

I can’t imagine.

The documentary didn’t get great reviews; it actually got slammed, likely by white journalists who don’t want anyone disrupting the broken system they’ve fallen in love with.

BUT, I also wanted to touch on another HBO show I’ve become obsessed with, also involving LeBron James: “The Shop”. I watched most of season one and season two just started. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s LeBron in a barber shop just having conversations with groups different people in each episode — sometimes it’s professional athletes, sometimes talk show hosts, rappers… it is SO good!

And nope — not an ad for HBO! If you have any good TV recs, let me know 🙂

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